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Wednesday, December 9, 2020


(Fiona Kirkwood and “Rain” (detail) by Dean Demos)

It has just been announced that internationally-recognised Durban artist, Fiona Kirkwood, has just won a Silver Medal for her latest installation, Rain, in a major international show “From Lausanne to Beijing” curated out of Beijing China to be viewed online in January, exhibiting alongside some of the most respected global art makers working today.

Rain is soon to be exhibited at the 11th International Fiber Art Biennale, organized in Beijing China to go online during mid-January 2021. The exhibition attracted 1,000 entries, from 54 countries, of which 313 (119 from China and 194 from other countries), were selected by an international jury consisting of 21 leading artists and academics. The piece is made of nylon, beads, steel wool and digitally-printed polyester. It comments on how climate change is affecting rainfall patterns in South Africa and in different parts of the world.

“In this very troubled year of COVID-19, I am so grateful that my artwork is still being appreciated globally,” enthused Kirkwood.

Fiona Kirkwood, D A (Glasgow School of Art), M A F A (Natal) lives and works in Durban. She is a pioneer in her field in South Africa and internationally. She is noted for the cutting-edge manner in which she combines Fine Art and textiles to create highly-textured, multi-media conceptual works.

Her works reflect her awareness of the spirit of South Africa and the energy and vibrancy of KwaZulu-Natal, where she lives and works. Her themes vary from human rights issues during the transition from apartheid to democracy to HIV/AIDS; the environmental issues of pollution, the endangerment of large mammals and climate change; life and death rituals; and her own self-identity influenced by her upbringing in Scotland and her lived experience of 45 years in South Africa. The underlying message which is central to her work is the desire to protect all forms of life.

Kirkwood’s unique way of mixing unorthodox materials to make sculptures and installations sets her apart. Her works are usually monumental and dramatic, and manifest a powerful physical presence. Since 1980, they have involved the exploration of magical, ritual, social, political, environmental and spiritual and identity themes.

Her 2001 work entitled Freedom Coat is currently on exhibition at the Central Museum of Textiles in Lodz, in Poland, and consists of giant beadwork pieces that commemorate the role of Nelson Mandela and other heroes of the South African Struggle for democracy.

Her work has been widely-recognised and highly-respected internationally, and she has exhibited in 24 countries. These include 12 solo exhibitions in South Africa, India and South Korea, and 66 group exhibitions in South Africa, Scotland, France, Italy, Poland, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Lithuania, Australia, Argentina, the United States, Canada, Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Ukraine, China, Portugal and Uruguay. She has received international awards and prizes for her work at exhibitions in South Africa, Lithuania, Latvia and China.

One of Kirkwood’s highlights was in 2008 when she was chosen along with other top South African artists to exhibit her installation Survival on the Make Art/Stop AIDs exhibition at the Fowler Museum, University of California Los Angeles, in the United States. The work consisted of the word ‘Survival’ made of 2,500 male and female condoms and was subsequently also shown at the 5th International Biennial of Textile Art in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The same year, she exhibited her work Inceptions during the Miniartextil exhibition in St Francesco church in Como, Italy. The work involved digitally-printed phallic columns inspired by the seeds of the Natal Mahogany tree and was a comment on the beginning of life and how to preserve it via seed and sperm banks.

Another highlight was the 2010 exhibition of her work Radiate(d) at the 13th International Triennial of Tapestry at the Central Museum of Textiles in Lodz, Poland. The work was made of colourful and white cable ties which signified how coral reefs around the world were being destroyed by global warming.

In 2013, she showed All for Love on “Eros” Miniartextil, Villa Olmo, a palace that Napoleon had stayed in, on Lake Como Italy, while in she was selected as one of “22 Invited Artists” on V11 Biennial of Contemporary International Art textile, WTA, National Museum of Visual Arts, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Rain can be viewed online at the 11th International Fiber Art Biennale, organized in Beijing China to go online during mid-January 2021. Link in due course will be on Kirkwood’s website: